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January 2009

Friday, 30 January 2009

I bought some PC-133 memory to upgrade an old computer from 256MB to 512MB. It wouldn't work. Turns out that older machines may have a problem with memory sticks that are two-sided. It looks like that was the problem. I will look at my other computers and see if I have any single sided PC-133 memory sticks I can move around, but I kind of doubt it. The memory only cost me $12, so I'm not out much money.

I had hoped to upgrade this system to make it much more responsive when running Ubuntu 8.10. It runs okay now, but fairly slow. There's a lot of memory swapping going on.


And January of a new year is done. Just like that. Time doesn't just march on, it takes the world's fastest jet.


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Thursday, 29 January 2009

I am trying to fix a bug at work in a log file reader. The reader is supposed to read a log on a Windows machine that resides in the \Windows\system32 directory. The problem occurs on the 64-bit version of Windows. When you try to access that particular directory in 64-bit Windows, the O/S redirects you to the \Windows\syswow64 directory. This is good for them, as it separates 32-bit programs from 64-bit. But when you are looking for a simple text file in the directory, it's more like a death sentence.

The solution to this is to turn off the redirection. There is a Windows API call that can do that. I have added it to the Java log file reader, but I can't verify that the thing is working. It looks like the reader finds the file, but I don't see any alarms coming from the file. I will try again today.


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Wednesday, 28 January 2009

I thought I would try to copy that bad DVD on a different computer. It turns out that was a good thought. I had no problems at all copying it. I guess that the rule here is, it can usually be read on one machine or another.

The great thing about it is I had no problems at all with the copy, on the computer that had so much trouble playing the original.


Although we didn't get the 1 to 2 inches of snow that was promised, the dusting of snow that fell yesterday had a remarkable effect on our little hill. I had no trouble at all getting the Honda up the hill to the county road this morning.


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Tuesday, 27 January 2009

I was right about getting up the hill yesterday. I had to back down to the bottom and get a running jump at it to get up to the county road. It sounds like this is a really steep hill, doesn't it? Well, it's a pretty mild climb. Which you can't drive up when it is surfaced with the kind of ice they groom on a hockey rink.


I tried to back up another DVD last night and was unsuccessful. It started out pretty good, with an estimate of about 1/2 hour to do the backup. Four hours later, when I went to bed, it was at 70%. Sometime during the night, the program (K9Copy) failed. I suspect I will find more DVDs like that one, so I'm in for an interesting time.


Have I mentioned how much I hate Windows? Of any flavor? I tried most of yesterday to create a virtual machine with Windows as the O/S. First, I tried XP and it wanted me to register the install. So next I tried Vista, and the other software I was trying to install was incompatible. I finally took an XP VM that was already set up, removed all the extra stuff I had installed (SQL Server 2008, Visual studio 2005) and installed Delphi on that VM. Now I just have to install Crystal Reports and I will be finished. I hope.


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Monday, 26 January 2009

I haven't had a chance to take a good look at Fedora 10. I was busy over the weekend, including fixing a problem with a program at work and making better copies of some DVDs I recorded. The original copies skipped and stuttered and sometimes just stopped playing.


The road up to the county road is still an ice rink. If we don't get some snow soon, or if the ice doesn't melt, we will have to sand the road again. All the sand and dirt we put on it before has melted into the ice. Last night, I had trouble getting my 4x4 truck up the hill. I may have to take a running jump at the hill this morning with my Honda.

Maybe the cold temperature will help. Right now, it's 9° F and windy.


R.I.P. Ed Colvin, 84 year old extraordinary teardropper. You will be missed.


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Friday, 23 January 2009

I got a call from a friend last night, asking me how she could back up a DVD. I answered 'DVD Fab Platinum', because I knew she had that on her Windows XP computer. I was surprised when she said, "No. I run Linux!" I know she spends 99 percent of her time on the Linux box, so I then told her to use K9Copy. She wanted to know how to use it.

I fired up my machine and walked through the process with one of my DVDs. It was very simple, but the user interface for K9Copy still needs work. The DVD I produced was also playable on a normal DVD player, which is something I have had trouble with in the past.

I guess the moral is, if someone asks you what software to use, don't assume Microsoft Windows.


I installed Fedora Linux 10 on one of my machines last night. I haven't had the time to fully evaluate it, but there are two things I don't like about it already. The first is the fact that they hide the Grub menu. You have to hit a key on your keyboard to see the menu, and any Windows boot partition shows up on the menu as 'Other'. I can fix all that, but it is annoying that I have to fix it.

The second problem is there is no shutdown icon on the task bar, like there is in Ubuntu. That means extra mouse clicks just to shut the machine down. I'm all for less mouse clicks rather than more.


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Thursday, 22 January 2009

I'm glad I'm not a full time software tester. I'm getting very tired of testing log readers at work. For each reader, you do the same steps. When you are finished, you move on to the next reader and do it all over again. It's really boring.

Boring, except when you catch a problem. I caught one yesterday. I started up the reader, checked it was running okay, then hit the Stop button to stop it so I could change the configuration. The reader did not stop (it actually did, but it never announced correctly that it had stopped). A co-worker and I made changes to all the readers for this very problem, and that's the reason I am testing them all. Obviously, we missed one. So I fixed it and continued testing. A momentary blip in a boring job.


The trend on TV nowadays is crap shows instead of quality, and shuffling shows around so you have to search for your favorites. Wednesday is now a complete write-off for anything interesting or even entertaining, along with Saturday and Sunday. If a show doesn't have professionals to entertain us, it's crap, so don't tell me reality shows aren't crap. This leaves me more time to read, though.


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Wednesday, 21 January 2009

I am converting a C++ program at work from using wide characters to using UniCode. That sounds pretty easy, except we're talking about Microsoft here. I made the change in the preferences and recompiled the the program. I ended up with a bunch of errors in function calls. It seems that when you make a change like that, the functions are redefined in the header files. So some of the function parameters are now UniCode instead of wide. And I have a lot of work to do. This program basically requests a Windows event log from the system. I have to figure out which functions it is necessary to change the parameters for, and which functions it is necessary to change the function definition for. Some fun, eh?

Other than that, I am busy testing log readers. There are over 40 of them, so I won't run out of work for a while.


There is no more North Idaho Dutch Oven Group. It has been folded into the local muzzleloaders group. I just got a schedule of cooking events for the group, and the first one is early in February. I will have to get more information about that event and dig my Dutch ovens out of the garage.


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Tuesday, 20 January 2009

I cannot find low carb pasta anywhere in Coeur d'Alene. I looked in all the markets I thought would cater to low carb diets and no one carries it anymore. Super 1 Foods used to carry it, but they have stopped.

The specialty stores that cater to that kind of diet are also gone. There weren't enough people frequenting them to justify their existence. Too bad, as they had some good stuff (like sugar-free black licorice).

I finally ended up ordering low carb pasta over the Internet from a place called Netrition. Now that I get a close look at their online store, though, maybe I should have tried the nutrition stores around here.


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Monday, 19 January 2009

I wanted to learn what was so outstanding about Fedora Linux 10, so I decided to install it on an older computer I brought home from my parents. Since the computer only has a CD drive, I needed to hook up my external DVD drive to the box. I found that the computer was too old to support a USB DVD drive.

So I downloaded the ISO image of Fedora 10 and burned it on a CD. I plugged that in and it started booting. After booting forever, it selected the wrong video mode and I was presented with a screen full of snow with a mouse cursor to move around. I booted the disk up on a different computer and it booted fine. I used the built-in function to check the disk to see if I had burned it correctly, and I did. I guess that Fedora 10 is just too recent to run on an Intel Celeron processor with 256MB of memory and a built-in video card (Dell GS-50 computer).


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Friday, 16 January 2009

Caruso's Deli in Post Falls has free WiFi for its customers. It used to be an open connection, but they found that some people were sitting in their cars close to the deli and using the WiFi connection without buying anything at the deli. So Caruso's encrypted their connection. They used WEP, so it isn't real secure, but the easiest thing to do to use it is to buy something and ask them what the password is. So much for open access. You can't really blame them, though. the service was provided as a perk for their customers, not for the general public.


I have to work on Saturday to make up for a day I missed week before last. I was snowed in that day, even though I had parked up on the county road.


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Thursday, 15 January 2009

I am starting to have trouble with my (new) workstation. It shuts itself off for no reason, and I can't figure out if that is a motherboard problem or a power supply problem. I guess I will have to swap out the power supply with the old workstation's supply.

This shut down happened several times over the weekend, but I wasn't doing anything important or that could not be recovered. Last night, it happened while I was downloading the ISO file for Fedora Linux 10. I only had 1/2 hour left on the download and now I have to start over. So I'm going to fix the problem.

I have Fedora 10 on a DVD, but the machine I want to install it on only has a CD drive. So I was trying to get a CD image. I'll try again after swapping power supplies.


I am the web site maintainer for the North Idaho Mineral Club. It hasn't been much trouble up to this point; just adding newsletters each month. Now, though, we will be adding new photos showing member projects. This will include the agate handle I am making for a knife I have that has no handle. I will be picking up pictures at the Mineral Club meeting tonight.


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Wednesday, 14 January 2009

I got the latest issue of Linux format magazine in the mail yesterday. The included DVD has the latest version of Fedora Linux on it. The magazine has rated this version of Linux as a '10' out of 10, which I find extremely hard to believe. Fedora's base desktop is KDE and its package manager has never been very good. I guess I will have to install the distro to see what the big deal is. I am an Ubuntu fanboy, so don't expect me to change my mind any time soon.


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Tuesday, 13 January 2009

When I came home from Arizona after Christmas, I brought one of my parents' computers with me. They weren't using it, so I took it back. It's a Dell GX-50, with a Celeron processor and 256MB of memory and an 80GB hard drive. It works fine, but could use more memory. I wiped out Mepis Linux on it and installed Ubuntu 8.10. It's a nice little machine. I now have to figure out what to do with the computer, as I have way too many of them.


I'm still trying to compile some code at work that was written by a rent-a-coder. It's a bit like getting a locked security box with all the bits you require, but no key to the box. Really frustrating.


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Monday, 12 January 2009

We had a good meeting of the North Idaho Linux Users group on Saturday. We had a nice lunch and mostly sat around and talked about Linux. We will definitely have to have a topic for the next meeting, though.


The snow on the roof of my garage finally slid completely off this morning. I was surprised when I got back from Arizona at the end of the year, as the snow from all those huge storms was still on that metal roof and showed no signs of leaving. This warm spell we are having has finally helped remove that incredible snow load. Whew.


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Friday, 9 January 2009

I spent yesterday in installation hell. I decided to install Microsoft SQL Server 2008 on a machine in our network. The first thing that happened is the machine updated the MS setup program. Then it installed .Net 3.0. Then it tried to install SQL Server, but the analysis portion of the install said I needed to update Visual Studio 2008. Visual Studio 2008? What does that have to do with SQL Server? Anyway, it told me to do a Windows Update to get the latest stuff for Visual Studio.

So I went to the Windows Update site, and was told that Windows Update needed to be updated. Then it told me there were no updates for Visual Studio, but I really should install Windows Service Pack 3. So I did that. No change in the SQL Server install.

Next, I searched the Net for Visual Studio Service Pack 1 and found an ISO image of the SP. I downloaded that and burned a DVD (NOT a CD, as the SP was 871MB!) I installed that and was finally able to install SQL Server 2008.

Through this 8 hour sojourn, I had to reboot that machine at least 5 times. If I was installing a SQL Server program on Linux, I would have gone into the package manager, searched for the SQL Server program and selected it. When I did that, the package manager would have automatically selected all the dependencies I didn't already have. I would then click on Apply and watched as the SQL Server program was downloaded and installed. Maximum install time: not more than about 1/2 hour. They say that Linux is 'not mature'. I say: "WHICH O/S is not mature?"


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Thursday, 8 January 2009

At work, I am still testing the interaction between the database auditing program I wrote and MS SQL Server 2008. There are three test scenarios: monitoring SS2K8 from a computer on a different domain, monitoring SS2K8 from a computer on the same domain and monitoring SS2K8 on the same computer that contains the SS2K8 server. There might be one more scenario, but I will have to think about that one.

The program will not monitor SS2K8 on a different domain. That works for older versions of SQL Server, but was a security hole that MS seems to have finally fixed. The program will monitor SS2K8 if it is correctly installed on the same computer that contains SS2K8. I have to set things up so I can try the third case today.


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Wednesday, 7 January 2009

At work, I am trying to compile a C++ program we got from a rent-a-coder, and it's been impossible. Right now, I am getting compile errors in header files supplied with the compiler! I don't know how the rent-a-coder had his machine configured, but it must be really non-standard.

I am also evaluating SQL Server 2008 to see if the auditing program I wrote for SQL Server will work without any changes. I am using SS2K8 in a virtual machine and hope to monitor database changes in it from my normal workstation environment.


The first meeting of the North Idaho Linux Users Group will meet on Saturday in Post Falls. We are hoping to see a lot of people who got computers for Christmas and who have taken an instant dislike to the buggy, insecure and overly complex so-called 'operating system' that the computer came with, and who want the stability and security of Linux.


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Tuesday, 6 January 2009

The drive back from Arizona to North Idaho on December 29th and 30th was not as nice as the drive down. Highway 95 and I-15 was fine from Lake Havasu up through Las Vegas and through Salt Lake City. I got to Pocatello, where I usually stay the night, earlier than usual, so I decided to keep driving. I spent the night in Idaho Falls, where it seems that Motel 6 has found itself a new profit center by charging their customers for Internet access. I think I will stay in Pocatello from now on.

I left Idaho Falls at 6am on the 30th and started north towards I-90. Things started getting interesting at around Spencer, Idaho (as usual). Lots of packed snow and ice on the road, from there all the way to Coeur d'Alene. There were no real problems except for having to concentrate extra hard on driving, until I got to Missoula. Just east of Missoula, a big county dump truck that was going east on I-90 lost it on a curve, overturned and managed to take major chunks out of the concrete dividers. It also scattered a few truck parts in the west bound lanes. As I slowed and passed the accident, I could smell hot oil and fuel. The ambulance was just pulling up as I passed. I haven't heard anything more about that accident, but that may because it was in Montana.

The rest of the trip was pretty much uneventful. I got home about 1:15pm and got my car parked in front of the house about 5pm (there was a LOT of snow to plow). I'm glad to be back.


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Monday, 5 January 2009

I guess that by now, you have figured out I spent Christmas somewhere other than North Idaho. I got in the car on December 20th and drove down to Lake Havasu City, AZ. The road was completely dry and the weather was great, starting as soon as I got off I-90 and onto I-15. The only problem I had was I had to stop in a Kellogg, ID car wash to spray the wheels with warm rinse water. There was so much ice and packed snow buildup from the storm on Wednesday that one of the wheels started shimmying when I exceeded 52 MPH. After the ice removal, I had no more problems.

I actually posted two blog entries from Lake Havasu, then posted one more saying I would resume posting on Wednesday, December 31st. When I got home on Tuesday afternoon (the 30th), it was to 2 1/2 feet more snow and no Internet connection. I found out later that my ISP was down because his SnowCat broke down and he couldn't get up on the mountain and fix his power problem. So it got fixed on Saturday, after 6 days (Monday-Saturday) of no connection.


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Saturday, 3 January 2009

I finally have an Internet connection, and will be updating on a regular basis once more. I got back into town from Arizona on Tuesday, the 29th of December and the connection was down. It was down for a total of 6 days (ISP problem). Sorry I could not inform anyone. I only had withdrawal symptoms for 3 days...


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